Buy or Rent?

HI Everybody!

I am new to the scene and from what I have read so far you all seem to be an untapped wealth of info so here goes. I have wanted to fly for years, was working retail constantly dreaming of my long past intro flight yet unable to make the plunge from my safe and comfortable employment. I started making plans to hit the refresh button then COVID hit it for me. Fast forward a few months, I am currently working with a CFI for my private pilot license and I love it! Why did I wait so long… I know this is the career I would like to remain in. Onto my dilemna - I want to buy a plane.

Comparing costs between renting vs owning while getting my initial endorsements seems like owning would be the better option. I know I could potentially sign up with ATP and take advantage of their program to reduce/repay tuition expenses but I am hesitant because of COVID and no guarantee of employment/tuition assistance. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make money while getting flight hours if I were to own a plane (172rg is the one I am looking at) or any other ways to get hours other than being a CFI? Also, what do you suggest about renting vs. buying in the long run?

Thanks a 1,000,000!!

Buying a plane to build hours, then resell it afterwards could sound cheap, but maintaining it is the hard part. Much better off to rent. If something goes wrong in your plane, you’re screwed, wallet wise. Add to that insurance, fuel, wear and tear, hangars, inspections, etc.

Better to have the peice of mind of renting. Especially if you’re building hours, much better off to split hours. Many places have a Cessna 152 for 90-95/hr WET. If you have a safety pilot, you’ll only be paying 45/hr. Join fb groups for time sharing opportunities. It’s like ATP crew phase, just fly around the US for 45/hr. Very exciting.

Now to the other part of your question, no one will hire you at the 250 hours you’ll have when you get your CPL. Unless you have connections.

You have many opportunities like pipeline patrol (big in Texas), banner tow, aerial photography, jump pilot, Bush pilot, ferry pilot, etc.

Pre covid you may have had a chance to get them as a fresh cpl, now, not so much. I see many places for these jobs asking for 500/750/1000 hrs. Even then it’s competitive. So you’ll have to time share to get to 500 at least to be a bare min competitor.

Im also not a big fan of the cfi-way as well and rather hand fly the plane for all my hours. Fortunately for me, my father has connections with many owners of the above mentioned jobs. Totally looking forward to them after I get my multi engine!

Good luck!!


There is no guarantee of future employment in any career. I am always a bit surprised when this comes up. Med school does not guarantee future employment as a doctor, nor does law school guarantee successful employment as a lawyer. As for Covid, this too shall pass and the industry will return. We are simply not a society of people that want to sit still.

There is really no way to make money with an airplane other thanking a CFI and to CFI in an airplane you will either need to own the airplane or work for the flight school that is renting it. Even if you won it, you will have to find a way to attract customers and having only one airplane in the fleet will make life tough. There are not many jobs for low time pilots other than being a CFI.

I would never buy an airplane, but that is just me. I think you will find that the costs are much higher than renting and that it is far more involved than you might initially think.



I would urge you to reconsider your thoughts on being a CFI. To begin with, there are no extra points for hand flying all of your hours and when you get to the airlines, hand flying will be a very small part of what you do. You will learn so much more as a CFI, particularly if you are teaching instrument students, then you ever will doing any of the VFR jobs that you mentioned.


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Moe and Travis,
You both should really reconsider using your CFI. I know its not going to be the fun or easy way to build time but it is the most valuable to your resume and future success. I think you’ll find jobs aside from flight instructing even harder to find, creating a huge risk for unemployment after graduation from ATP. Let alone the cost of buying an airplane (which I don’t recommend. It’s going to be way more expensive than you think.) When it comes time to apply for regionals and there are three CFI’s in the room that have 1300 hours of dual given time, and one guy with pipeline, skydive, banner towing time, they will take the CFI’s first every single time. Being a CFI means you will have a lot stronger knowledge since you’ve been having to teach it. You can communicate well during instruction, which will translate to good CRM in the cockpit and you’re already focused on safety in all phases of flight above all else. Believe me, not everyone loves being a CFI, but its an investment in your future success. Trust me.

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I’m going to pile on with the others. There are multiple threads on the subject and owning just doesn’t work. First you’ve probably seen some reasonably priced airplanes out there. More times than not they usually require an overhaul which can cost more than the plane itself. Also if it’s not expensive it probably has older outdated avionics which might prohibit your flying and available ratings. You then need to find an instructor who’s willing to train you in your plane, many will not. Finally in addition to the normal maintenance once you start using your plane commercial you’ll need to do much more frequent maintenance.

Short answer the numbers don’t work which is why it’s seldom done.



As you can tell I am afraid that you are not going to get much support in regards to your proposal. Of course you can make whatever decision you’d like, but we are so against this idea. It’s costly to maintain and inefficient. As the others have said, teaching is the best method. So, if you end up buying a plane anyway, I would still use it to instruct. To be clear, I recommend not going this route, but I do know of someone that did it and was successful. I flew with him last week.